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Heifer International

Wednesday, February 12, 2020  
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Partnering with schools and others to end hunger and poverty across the world.


Fair to say, every independent school encourages service and formulates projects they hope will ensure their students grow into mindful citizens with a compassion for others. Heifer International projects take students beyond a simple fundraising or canned food drive to a deeper understanding of the persistent economic challenges in places across the world. Heifer’s goal is to bring resources to impoverished communities that facilitate long-lasting, life-changing results. As students participate in Heifer projects, they learn about the critical elements and obstacles to a sustainable economy – and how relatively humble contributions combined with some well-timed technical know-how can produce generational change. In the process, the students’ global perspective is expanded and enhanced, as is their compassion for the needs of the world around them.

Heifer International began 75 years ago through the work of Dan West, a midwestern farmer and member of the Church of the Brethren. Volunteering in support of refugees from the Spanish Civil War in 1944, West recognized that giving hungry people food was a short-term solution that didn’t solve underlying issues. Providing animals, however, empowered entire families and created a path out of poverty. In the years after World War II, the emerging organization ferried cattle, pigs, and goats across the sea and land to the needy in Europe, establishing the “hand up, not a hand out” model that Heifer International promotes today.

Across 21 countries, Heifer International gives farmers and aspiring entrepreneurs with few resources the tools to create a livelihood. It begins with a seed investment of livestock or agriculture – a flock of chickens, a cow, tree seedlings, a bee hive – the raw materials recipients need to build a business. Groups of participants form self-help groups and many later organize into cooperatives with hundreds of fellow farmers, designed to support animal well-being, financing, and the complexities of getting goods to market. With the support and advice of Heifer mentors, these farmers learn how to successfully enter the local supply chain, then to expand capacity and move into new markets – the cooperative structure often aiding in the negotiation of better prices for their goods. When more families earn living incomes, they lift the entire community even as they train the next generation of leaders. With targeted financial support and the use of appropriate technologies, Heifer helps farmers create thriving dairies, poultry farms, and grow much-needed crops to vastly improve countless lives.

The principals that guide Heifer International’s global reach are outlined in a set of 12 core values known as the Cornerstones for Just and Sustainable Development. All project participants take part in training around the Cornerstones, establishing a common set of values for their partnership. These include accountability, passing on the gift, training, care of the environment, spirituality, and a commitment to justice and gender fairness. The entire Cornerstone list is available on the Heifer website. The comprehensive nature of these core values points to Heifer’s commitment to not just obviate poverty, but to strengthen family and community relationships.

Heifer International offers a variety of school-focused programs tailored to specific ages. Their School Field Trip Contest now underway enables adults who work in their school’s fundraising effort to see Heifer’s projects first-hand. The top five schools that raise the most money will qualify to send their adult leader to visit a Heifer project in person – all expenses paid. The contest runs through June 15, 2020. Find complete contest rules here.

You can support the work of Heifer International by fundraising in your school community, becoming a Heifer donor, or using their gift catalog to give truly transformative gifts. A sheep or goat given in honor of a key colleague’s accomplishment or work anniversary will not only be a memorable gift – but one that does a world of good.

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